Unapologetically progressive, Rep. Rashida Tlaib is ready for her sophomore term

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., joins Yahoo News National Correspondent Alexander Nazaryan to discuss the outlook for her second term in Congress, her hopes for the Biden-Harris administration and the unexpected impact of “the Squad”.

Video Transcript

ALEXANDER NAZARYAN: I want to talk to about, sort of-- what you see so far in the Biden transition, and whether you see the Biden team acknowledging some of the progressive policy goals that you and others have voiced.

RASHIDA TLAIB: Yeah, no, I think it's really important as folks think about this, and especially in a district like mine. I have the third poorest congressional district in the country. And for many of my community folks and residents understand that their movement for social justice, and ending poverty, and addressing the negative impacts on their lives, the COVID, and the pandemic, that they know that their work continues after Election Day. And that includes holding President-elect Biden as well as Vice-President-elect Harris accountable to many of the promises they made-- one, in leading with compassion, one, making sure that they put people first during this pandemic, and a number of other areas I think that are very important for districts like mine.

ALEXANDER NAZARYAN: It was a discourse, as I'm sure you know, after November 3, that calls to defund the police, and the Green New Deal, and other progressive goals-- that those hurt, you know, members like Max Ro-- I'll just use Max Rose in Staten Island, what do you say to that?

RASHIDA TLAIB: I mean, there's a lot of folks that have various opinions. I always say to people, you know, represent your district. Be so grounded and rooted in your community, because when you do get attacked, and I did, people are going to say that's not Rashida. That's not that person I know. And I can tell you, it's because I really emphasize the importance of direct human contact. The fact that you really have to out-work the hate, you have to out-work the lies, all of that would happen with or without the defund movement, with or without the movement for Black Lives, with or without movement around making sure government is about people, not corporations. Because I'll tell you, if it's not Medicare for all, if it's not the Green New Deal, it was be something else that folks will be campaigning against you and saying that it's about something other than people. We all know that much of the movement work is moving with a sense of urgency. I think all of us have the same goals, really.

ALEXANDER NAZARYAN: What about people who say that you and other progressives are troublemakers? That you are-- I'm not-- that's not me.

RASHIDA TLAIB: No, I, you know, as many people want to label us that way, I think for many of the people that I have encountered-- the notes, the emails, the support that I've seen for people like me running for office and for those that have believed in the work that I'm doing, much of it has been so positive and that they feel like, it's not that just Congress looks differently. And it's important to have diversity. It's also that Congress speaks differently and hears differently. Because in the past, it's just been so disconnected with the pain and the hurt of people at home.

ALEXANDER NAZARYAN: Have you spoken at all to to Representative Spanberger after her comments on the call some days back?

RASHIDA TLAIB: Yeah, I mean, I think we have-- you know, as just a group of new members that came in together, we've-- we've talked to each other and we're trying to heal from-- I think a lot of us were very disappointed in this kind of blame game we recognized was not constructive. And we're moving forward. Look, I have been in spaces for movement in the nonprofit advocacy organizations where this happens, and now within even the political schemes that, you know, that is internal. And one of the things that I think is really important is that we really, truly hear and listen to each other, that we do not attack each other for representing our districts. That we have to really understand the importance of that. That every single one of us brings a different voice here and we don't try to silence each other or try to undermine or anything like that because I would never do that to any of my colleagues.

ALEXANDER NAZARYAN: So, you know, there's kind of this thing on the Hill, where, it's like, the squad is too cool for school, you guys get a lot of media attention--

RASHIDA TLAIB: I haven't heard that one, too cool for school, that's adorable. That's OK.

ALEXANDER NAZARYAN: Well, so how do you answer that? You know, you guys obviously get a ton of media attention-- you're on TV, or in magazines, you get interviewed by people like me. What do you, mean, how do you-- RASHIDA TLAIB: You know, I don't know what to tell you, because I didn't know many of-- I didn't know AOC or Ayanna. I knew of Ilhan, and I've met her a couple of times, but, you know, we have inspired a generation. We've inspired people from all different ages.

Yesterday, the driver probably didn't even know the person transporting me back to my house. He had no idea, he saw me at 10 o'clock at night leaving the Longworth office building, and I'm in the cab with him, and he begins to say, wow you're working late, let me tell you Biden-Harris administration should do, and he goes on and on. And he goes, I just want you to know, this man is in his 50s. I'm a squad person. I said, really? I told him, I am very fond of the girl from Detroit. He goes, me too. I like her. He had no idea it was me, but I asked him, I said, why? And he goes, because. And he got really emotional. He said, because they understand how much we're hurting right now. And I could feel his pain. He says, you know, I work for the government. And I have to do this other job to make ends meet.

And so, if anything, I don't think it's the photos in the magazine or anything, it's what the things that we're saying and doing that is inspiring our nation is gravitating, and expanding the electorate of folks that never thought they could ever see themselves in Congress, or ever felt like Congress was speaking on their behalf. And all of a sudden, they're like, wow, I just heard Rashida talk about something that is as close to universal basic income that we've ever seen. You know, we're so behind in elevating people out of poverty, we're so behind on making sure that we have clean water and clean air.

And so I really think it is because of the work that we're doing, which we haven't seen in quite a while. People have been waiting. They've been desiring to see that type of meaningful change, and we're coming in and hitting the ground running and people are excited about it.